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BOOK: loose
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Change doesn’t scare me. I know about change. I may even like it.

I’ll have a fresh start with new classmates and friends. Particularly, I’ll meet new boys. Boys who might see me as something more than just a friend. I definitely don’t want to see Brian or Iggy again. I exposed myself. This is my chance to renew who I am, try again to be the self-controlled, mysterious girl, the one who lives by the rules. It’s my first of many attempts to start from scratch in this way, to try again and again to swallow my desperation, claw my way up from under it.

32 •


Gym is the most embarrassing of high school classes. We have to change in the locker room in front of one another, everything revealed—heavy breasts, thick hips, and unshaved legs. This is especially bad for the new girl. I am sharply aware of the moles on my arms, the way my leg fat spreads if I sit to pull on jeans. The other girls, already in cliques, chatter away, every once in a while stealing glances my way. I push the dirty gym clothes into the locker and duck out, avoiding eyes. It is in this vulnerable state, making my way back toward the other buildings, that Amy stops me.

“Did you just start here?” she asks. She looks at me with sharp brown eyes. She is bigger than me, both in stature and in height, and I feel vaguely intimidated. I recognize her from campus. She’s a grade ahead of me.

I nod.

“Why?” she asks.

“Why?” I’m confused.

“Why are you coming here for tenth grade?” She keeps her gaze steady. “Did you just move?”

33 •

L o o s e G i r l

“I got in trouble,” I tell her. “My dad made me switch schools.”

Amy’s eyes open wide, intrigued. “What did you do?”

I shrug. “I had a party and people stole stuff.” Amy smiles slightly and seeing her amusement, I keep going, embellishing. “And there were boys. I did some things my dad didn’t like.”

Now Amy’s smile fills her face. “I know what that’s like,” she says.

I smile too.

From then on, Amy and I spend most of our time together. On weekends we take cabs into Manhattan and search for bars that won’t badger us for our fake IDs. Our aim is simple: We’re looking for boys.

Most nights, Dad sleeps at his new girlfriend’s, leaving Amy and me free to do what we want. Amy calls her mother, telling her she’ll be sleeping over. I can tell from Amy’s brief silence that her mother begins to protest, but Amy always cuts her off.

“I’ll be fine, Sheila,” she says, annoyed, and she rolls her eyes at me. I shake my head, feigning understanding, but the truth is I am amazed by the way she talks to her mother. She even calls her by her first name! I would never have the guts.

Nights that Dad is home, he watches me carefully as I emerge with Amy from the hallway, both of us wearing miniskirts and too much makeup. He knows he shouldn’t trust us. But I can tell he also kind of likes it, even after that whole lawsuit thing last year. He likes that I try to be pretty, that I’m even becoming pretty as I get older, and he likes that I want to party. It reminds him of who he used to be when he was a teen, when he was popular and carefree, not a divorced dad raising two girls by himself. He has stories, like the one from when he was seventeen and working at Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor with his friend Les. Whenever thirteen- or fourteen-year-old girls visited, they told the girls to sit tight while they prepared a special treat: two scoops of vanilla ice cream, a carefully carved banana, whipped cream, and chocolate sprinkles for pubic hair.

“Here you go,” my young father said. “Virgin’s Delight, made especially for you.”

34 •

A H o u s e w i t h N o M e n The girls erupted into giggles. They held their spoons this way and that, trying to work at the ice cream.

My father and Les winked at them. “What’s the matter? Don’t you like it? Is it too big for you?”

They giggled some more.

I can tell by the way he talks that he misses those days.

Tyler is another story. Tyler stays in her room with the door closed.

I think it bothers Dad that he doesn’t understand her the way he does me. She’s too much like Mom, with her interest in art and all things alternative. She even looks like her, dark-haired and small. I avoid looking at her door as I pass, not wanting to think about the way she isolates herself all the time. It’s her choice, I tell myself. She could be going out and having fun if she wanted to. No one’s making her sit around with her fantasy figurines, waiting for Mom to call.

“Where are you going?” Dad asks when I head for the front door.

His cigarette sits in an ashtray on the coffee table, swirling smoke into the air.

“To the city,” I say. “I told you.”

“I want you home by midnight.”

“Dad.” I cross my arms. “Nothing even happens until ten.”

Dad takes a deep breath, considering this. “How about one?”

I scowl.


“Fine.” I glance over at Amy, roll my eyes. And we leave.

“I wish my dad were like that,” Amy says once we’re in the eleva -

tor. I think of her dad, who owns a chicken-packing company. He leaves every day at four in the morning, so usually when I’m at Amy’s house he’s asleep. When he’s awake, he’s grouchy and distant.

He calls Amy “Lame-y” as a joke, but I can tell Amy doesn’t think it’s funny. In many ways I do feel lucky my dad is my dad. He’s friendly and funny—really funny, not mean funny—and he smokes pot in the apartment. My friends have always liked him, and I can tell he takes pride in being the cool dad.

35 •

L o o s e G i r l

We find the taxi we ordered idling outside my building and get in. Both of us have piles of twenties in our purses, courtesy of our dads. The ride into Manhattan is always the same for me. As we cross the bridge I can see the endless lights that make up the skyline, flickering like a secret code. The sky is pale, starless, no match for the life below. The excitement of the city enters my bones like drugs from a syringe, and by the time we are paying and getting out on the Upper West Side, I am convinced something real can happen, something that can change my life. We walk to the West End, a trendy bar full of underagers like ourselves. The sweaty, bearded bouncer smirks at our IDs, but he leans back to let us through. Amy goes to the bar and orders us sea breezes. Not that it matters to anyone working there, but we don’t really care about the drinks. We’re not looking to get drunk. We just order them to have something to do with our hands in case there are no tables. It’s the same reason we light up cigarettes. We take our drinks and look around the room.

Sure enough, the tables are full, so we stand against the wall, bouncing our heads just slightly to the music blaring from the ceiling.

The bar is loud tonight, full of laughter and conversation. Amy and I look at each other, trying to think of something to talk about. This too, looking like we’re engaged in intense conversation, is a part of looking right, like we’re not really just waiting for some boys to approach us and free us from our discomfort.

These minutes, the waiting, this is always the worst for me. My anxiety peaks, wondering whether I will be picked, like waiting to be chosen for a team in gym class. I run my fingers through my hair, cross one leg in front of the other, hoping that makes me look thinner. I scan the room, doing my best to look available, but not wanting to betray the desperation inside. I talk casually with Amy, but inside I am a jumble of angst and prayers. Please, I think, please let a boy find me tonight.

This particular night, I see Amy has noticed someone.

“Look,” she says, pointing her chin toward someone. Then, as I

36 •

A H o u s e w i t h N o M e n turn to look, “No, not so obvious.” I stop myself and glance back as casually as I can. There are three boys there, two OK-looking and one very good-looking. I recognize them immediately. It’s Peter Rafferty and his friends from our school, seniors. Every girl wants to date Peter. An extremely pretty senior girl did for a few months, but it was over quickly, and as far as I know no one has dated him since.

“I didn’t know anyone from school came here,” I say.

“Me neither.” She grabs my arm. “Come on.”

We make our way toward them, my heart thumping against my chest. They look up with amused expressions.

“Hello, ladies,” one of Peter’s friends says. “Can we be of service?”

Peter and the other one chuckle and exchange looks. I swallow, hoping they aren’t making fun.

“We know you,” Amy says to Peter. “We go to Dwight too.”

Peter raises his eyebrows and smiles.

“Really?” He stands. “I’ll get you some chairs.”

I breathe out, relieved, and we smile at the other two, Danny and Case. Peter comes back with chairs, and we set our drinks on the table and sit.

“So, what grade are you guys in?” Case asks. He has light brown hair and a long nose.

We tell them.

“I recognize you,” Danny says to me. “You’re new this year.”

I nod, feeling good. He knows about me. I’m noticeable. I take a long sip of my drink and light up a cigarette. As I blow out I look right at Peter.

“How long have you guys been here?” I ask.

Peter looks back at me. His eyes are a pale blue, and his blond hair hangs over them. He lights up a cigarette too. I put a finger to my lips, wanting him to think about them, to imagine kissing me.

“I don’t know,” he says. “A few hours.”

“Let’s do something,” I say. I look at Amy and she smiles.

“We could go to the park,” she says, referring to Central Park.

37 •

L o o s e G i r l

“Nah.” Danny downs the rest of his beer. His dark curls are cut close to his head, but he runs a hand over them as though they are long. “We can go to my place.”

I look at Peter. He shrugs and finishes his beer too. My heart picks up pace again as the five of us leave the bar and walk to Danny’s car, a white Honda. He opens the back door and Amy and I climb in. To my delight, Peter climbs in after me. I lift my leg slightly, so it will look thinner, and then I press it, just barely, against Peter’s. He glances at me, but I keep my eyes straight ahead. I don’t want to overwhelm him. I want him to come to me.

We drive through the city streets and head over the bridge, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” blaring from the radio. The boys laugh at private jokes, and Amy and I smile at each other. We’re getting what we wanted. I mouth to her, “Peter is mine.”

She raises her eyebrows. “Good luck,” she mouths back.

Danny turns off an exit and down some side roads and we slow in front of a moderate-sized house. We follow him inside and go straight to his bedroom.

“Where are your parents?” Amy asks.

“Asleep.” Danny throws a bunch of clothes off his unmade bed.

“Just don’t get too loud.”

Case laughs, hearing the sexual innuendo. I laugh too, looking right at Peter.

Peter sits on a beanbag chair on the floor, and I sit against the wall beside him, trying to figure out how to get him alone. Danny puts a Doors album on, and when he leaves the room to find beer in the kitchen, I get an idea.

“I need a cigarette,” I say softly, just to Peter. “Come with me?”

“Where?” I can’t read his expression. Is he hesitating? Does he not want to be alone with me?

“Is there a deck? Or on the front stoop. I don’t know.” I stand up, close to him, so he can feel the heat from my legs. I see him glance at them briefly.

38 •

A H o u s e w i t h N o M e n

“I guess I could go for a cigarette,” he says, and I know I have him. He stands and as we walk out of the room, I smile slyly at Amy.

Look at me, I’m thinking. Getting Peter Rafferty alone.

I follow Peter to sliding doors that lead to a deck. Danny sees us on his way back to his bedroom but says nothing. This gives me some hope. Maybe he expected Peter to want to be intimate with me, away from the others. It is a chilly spring night. I hold my jean jacket closed. I pull out a cigarette, hand one to Peter, and he lights them.

The night is clear, a half moon glowing in a corner of the sky. Stars sprinkle above the dark trees in Danny’s backyard. That discomfort kicks in again, the wondering and waiting. I take a drag and try to think of something to say, something that will cut into my anxiety.

“Tenth grade, huh,” Peter says. I smile, relieved he spoke first.

“Is there a problem with that?”

He smiles too. “I don’t really spend time with sophomores.”

“You’re too good for us.”

He shrugs. “I didn’t say that.”

I watch his lips as he talks, wishing he would just kiss me already.

I don’t want to have this conversation that pulls me just barely from my anxiety. I want to feel him hovering above me, blocking out all else. I want his full and total attention, and I want it to reach every part of me. Nothing left alone. Nothing untouched. I step toward him and touch his arm.

“What are you saying then?” I ask. I bite my lip.

He lets out a low laugh, understanding what I’m doing. With his eyes on mine he reaches a hand out and touches my breast. It is almost a competitive gesture, a dare. Like he’s checking to see what I can handle. I hold my gaze on his. Then I lean forward and kiss him.

He kisses me too but then pulls back abruptly. I throw my cigarette over the side of the deck, bothered, those nervous questions rushing in again. Is he teasing? Does he not like me? He takes another drag and leans his hands against the deck railing.

“Nice night,” he says.

39 •

L o o s e G i r l

I twist my lips in frustration and cross my arms over my front.

After a moment, he flicks his cigarette off the side. He lifts the hair off the back of my neck and kisses me there. My whole body tingles, and I stay perfectly still, not wanting him to stop. His kisses are so tender, I could almost cry. He turns me around and kisses me again, this time harder. He bites at the side of my neck, the tender-ness gone. Then he pushes me against the deck, grinding himself against me. I can feel him, hard against my belly, and I push back, all body, all pressing and pulling, my thoughts finally gone. He reaches under my shirt. And then all of a sudden he stops again. He pulls back, leaving me breathless, speechless. I reach for him, but he is already walking away, toward the sliding doors. As he slips them open he looks back at me.

BOOK: loose
10.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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